Falling in Love with Your Characters

Most writers want the characters we create to be well received by our readers. We want our heroes and heroines to be loved and cheered on. We want our villains to be hissed at or at least pitied and understood. We work very hard to create realistic characters who behave in ways that our readers can identify with or are curious enough about to try to understand even bizarre behavior.

Characters provide writers with actors to portray our stories. They help us illustrate a theme or issue. Most often they are mere tools for our use.

But sometimes we create such vibrant personalities for them, they become timeless friends, not only for our readers but also for us as writers. This is quite a different animal than what happen when we were young and fell in love with a movie star, going around all dreamy-eyed over some actor’s blue eyes or some actress’s tempting smile. And a few of us even developed deep attachments to some heroes and heroines in books, but not with the intensity of allure of the Technicolor of the silver screen, big or small.

For me, though, characters in books were much like those I encountered in television shows or films. They made me think. They made me laugh. And sometimes they made me cry about what happened to them. But I never fell in love with them.

The first time I ever heard a writer speak about being “in love” with a character was listening to N. Scott Momaday read live from his yet to be released novel then, Ancient Child (1989). I vaguely remember the passage about a central character in the story, a mixed-heritage woman named Grey, riding a horse. But I will never forget him saying at the end, “Now you see why I’m in love with her.” And, my husband turned to me and said, “I can see why he is.” But I didn’t have a clue what either of them meant. The character wasn’t special in my eyes. But N. Scott Momaday’s words remain with me to this day.

I did read recently about a romance author who had tried her hand at writing gay romance (m/m). She said that beginning the novel wasn’t hard, but the novel soon fell by the wayside because she just couldn’t finish it. The reason? She said that she had fallen madly in love with both men and was so jealous she didn’t want either of them to have the other! I laughed so hard—until I thought about my own work.

Though I have been writing off and on for several decades, I have never fallen in love with any of my characters. I like them for the most part. I understand them. I admire the supporting characters. But I never felt an attachment to them—that is until I started the Bowdancer Saga. Characters who started out as extras and who I thought would only have a supporting role, at the most, stepped up through the force of their personalities to become vibrant characters.

I found myself becoming emotionally attached, not just to these new personalities, but to my main character’s plight and to her turmoil. I found myself not just crying but sobbing several times during the writing of the third book, Warrior Women. And when I wrote the final word of that book, I sobbed again because I didn’t want to leave these characters who had indeed become friends and had stolen away my heart.

Luckily, my oft-wise daughter, told me that I could always write spin off stories about these characters—if I hadn’t killed them all off! So, the idea for the fourth book, The Lost Song, was born.

I don’t know how I’ll feel when The Lost Song is finished. I don’t think I’ll be sobbing this time because the story that hadn’t yet been told at the end of the third book will have been written and whatever these characters were trying to say or do will have been resolved.

For me, then, falling in love with all of these characters has been a good thing, allowing me to explore some ideas I hadn’t thought of. I’m just wondering if I’ll feel the same way about the characters in the other two series I’m planning.

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~ by thebowdancersaga on February 27, 2010.

One Response to “Falling in Love with Your Characters”

  1. Its a good day when your own work can make you cry. 🙂

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